Dame Felicity Palmer has had a career spanning some four decades, firstly as a concert soprano and, during the 1980s, as an operatic mezzo-soprano. Her early work included a wide variety of repertoire, from baroque music (with Sir Roger Norrington, Sir John Eliot Gardiner and concerts and recordings with Nikolaus Harnoncourt), to contemporary works with the London Sinfonietta and David Atherton and work with Pierre Boulez, with whom she recorded and toured Messiaen’s Poemes pour Mi with the BBC Symphony Orchestra. She met the composer when she later performed the same work with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Zubin Mehta.
During her soprano years she made a tour of Australia for the ABC and worked, among others, with Sir Simon Rattle, Sir Colin Davis, Rozhdestvensky (Shostakovich Symphony No.14 and The Trojans at the BBC Proms), Raymond Leppard (recording of Messiah), Sir Charles Mackerras (recording of Judas Maccabaeus for DGG, concert performances and the BBC Proms) as well as concerts with all the major London orchestras, the New York Philharmonic and the LA Philharmonic.
Recital work formed a key part of those years: with Geoffrey Parsons, Graham Johnson and the Songmaker’s Almanac, Roger Vignoles, Malcolm Martineau, Julius Drake and a great deal with John Constable, who, after a Queen Elizabeth Hall concert early on, played for three French song records for Argo Records and two Victorian ballads.
Becoming a mezzo-soprano led to operatic engagements, which soon included regular appearances at Glyndebourne, the Royal Opera House (including Sweeney Todd and Elektra), her debut at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, in Wagner’s Ring Cycle with James Levine and many subsequent appearances; Das Rheingold and Die Walküre in Munich with Zubin Mehta, Dialogues des Carmélites with Riccardo Muti at La Scala and with Michel Plasson in Zurich and Toulouse, as well as work in Amsterdam, Chicago, San Francisco, Paris and English National Opera in London.
Dame Felicity has recorded Elektra with the WDR Orchestra and Semyon Bychkov and recently, two concerts of the same opera were recorded for the London Symphony Orchestra label with Valery Gergiev at the helm. There is also a recording of Dialogues des Carmélites with ENO and Paul Daniel.
Dame Felicity’s recent engagements include Geneviève Pelléas et Mélisande with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Philharmonia orchestras and Esa-Pekka Salonen, Klytemnestra Elektra with Seymon Bychkov at the BBC Proms, a return to English National Opera for The Countess The Queen of Spades, Mrs Sedley Peter Grimes for Zurich Opera, English National Opera and with the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia conducted by Antonio Pappano, Madame de Croissy Dialogues of the Carmélites at the Metropolitan Opera and at the Bayerische Staatsoper and Mrs Peachum The Threepenny Opera with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Vladimir Jurowski.
She was made a CBE in 1993 and a Dame of the British Empire in 2011.